Friday, May 04, 2007

Wanna Buy a Hot Company?

Forty-five hours and still no electricity. It's supposed to go up to ninety degrees tomorrow. I'll be living in a sauna. A dark sauna.

Fortunately, there's plenty going on in the news to occupy my interest, including all sorts of financial to-doings this week. I count at least four stories in the works:

1) Readers of this blog know that I have repeatedly said I believe there are specific times when an author should consider going the self-publishing route. I described those times here.

I distinguish between the vanity presses such as PublishAmerica and the legitimate POD presses such as Lulu. Lulu's prices are closer to those of an actual printing company. While you can probably get a better price locally, Lulu is a reasonable alternative to the outrageous fees charged by the vanity presses who call themselves "POD publishers." For that reason, I paid particular attention to this story:

PR Newswire put out a press release on Thursday that announced was partnering with Universal Press Syndicate (UPS), the largest newspaper syndicate in the world. "UPS and Lulu will be working together to launch an online storefront as a new way for UPS to be able to produce and distribute their content to the vast audience of fans of their authors and creators."

Lulu's CEO said, "Giving Lulu users access to the many comic strip characters UPS manages, empowers our users to create amazing books and calendars for their own use and to sell globally through Lulu."

I'm unclear as to whether this means writers can license use of specific characters in order to write fan fiction. I'm sure more information will be forthcoming soon.

2) This morning, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Microsoft is once more pursuing Yahoo in order to obtain a search engine that will permit it to compete on a more even field with Google.

The Wall Street Journal said Microsoft and Yahoo were in the early stages of talks regarding a merger. This is not the first time these two companies have considered partnering up. However, the New York Post said this new approach appears to indicate "increased urgency" on the part of Microsoft. It may be that Google's proposed purchase of DoubleClick, an online advertising firm, is prompting this approchement.

3) On Tuesday, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., one of the largest media companies in the world, made an offer of $60 per share for Dow Jones, the owner of The Wall Street Journal, the Dow Jones Newswires and Barron's. That bid was 65% OVER the market close on Monday. Dow Jones, a stock that had been trading around $36/share prior to the offer, closed Friday around $56/share just on the power of Murdoch's interest.

News Corp. owns huge publishing interests. Among its holdings are HarperMorrow Publishers, which owns Avon, HarperCollins, and William Morrow.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is controlled by the Bancroft family, which owns 52% of the voting stock. The family has made it clear that they are not interested in the offer. Stockholders undoubtedly feel different. It's likely that a bidding war will start. The Bancroft family may go looking for a white knight to save them from a raid by Murdoch. Murdoch is trying to set up a meeting with the family. So far, they've declined to meet with him.

Today's New York Times had Murdoch talking about the WSJ:

The editorial pages? He likes them but would like to see more political coverage in the news pages. "I might put more emphasis on Washington," he said. He's not a huge fan of the Saturday Journal begun in 2005, but he would continue it and look at converting its Pursuits section into a glossy weekend magazine to compete with the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

I doubt that comment did much to endear Murdoch to the Bancroft family.

Bloomberg News suggested that other possible bidders for the company might include General Electric, the Washington Post, Gannett or Google.

4) Probably because of Rupert Murdoch's bid for Dow Jones, it seems that Reuters, the news and financial data provider, is also now in play.

CNN announced this morning that "Reuters said it had received a takeover approach from an unidentified bidder, sending its shares up almost a third, with Canadian publisher Thomson widely touted as the suitor."

While both Reuters and Thomson refused to comment on the rumors, the Globe and Mail newspaper cited sources who said that Thomson was in talks with Reuters.

I've had a number of careers in my life--I have a short attention span [grin]. I started out intending to become a teacher, but soon went to work for a stock brokerage house. Three years later, the company asked me to transfer to either Dallas or Atlanta to help open regional offices. I opted to move to Dallas and have lived here ever since. Of course, before long, I quit my job and went to graduate school to become a social worker and eventually ended up in charge of operations for public mental health services in Dallas County. But I never forgot the lessons I'd learned about stocks and trading.

It's a truism in the brokerage industry that strong markets often prompt buyout offers and bidding wars. Another thing I learned was that there are a lot of lemmings out there--investors who blindly follow leaders wherever they may go. "If Rupert Murdoch wants to buy a financial reporting company, maybe I should buy a financial reporting company, too."

Look for more buyout news. 'Tis the season.

No comments: